Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“A lifetime holding it together. One party will bring it crashing down.”

Set to be released on 27th May, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid is set in Malibu, August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; Jay, a championship surfer; Hud, a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. The only people not looking forward to the party are the Rivas themselves, who all need to get something off their chests. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.


Thank you to NetGalley for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Malibu Rising opens up with a striking prologue that details how the Malibu coast is often consumed by flames. But on this night, a fire begins at 7am, started by someone whose nature it is “to set fire and walk away”. As the hours tick down, your anticipating builds as you try to get to know each character and figure out if any of them have it in them.

With such a captivating opening, the story then bounces between the past, as we see how Mick and June began their relationship and welcome their four children into the world, with the present, as the Riva children prepare for a night that will have an impact on all of their lives.

Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit are the children of the famous singer Mick Riva, who many TJR fans will know as Evelyn Hugo’s third husband. Evelyn isn’t mentioned in the book but it’s a great nod to the author’s previous work, building on that flawed celebrity world that we have come to love reading about.

TJR is the Queen of creating interesting characters with strong bonds, and I absolutely loved this family of siblings. You get to know them all individually, see their typical sibling conflicts, but also feel the intensity of their support and commitment to each other.

There are a lot of other characters in the book with a host of random names dropped at the party. This is usually something that I would find distracting, but I loved the chaos of having a lot going on and seeing how all of these different classes of people behaved.

It’s this party setting that I loved most about this book, as TJR brilliantly captures the feeling we all have when celebrating something big. We hope for the best night and to achieve something desired, but we are also often filled with the dread of things not going to plan or living up to expectations. With the Rivas, we have the hope for things to work out but we are also filled with the worry of life taking its toll, as the pressure of the party looming builds up your tension.

Every Riva sibling has something that they need to share, as the story comes together exquisitely to reveal what that is and how they will overcome it. With this, TJR takes us on a compelling journey as we get to know each character and the threads of their relationships, see them confide their burden, and stand by their side in hope for resolution.

But not only does TJR create unforgettable characters, she also creates a beautiful setting. I love how she captures the 80s era but also the surf culture, giving her story a thriving and sunset-hued atmosphere. It’s the perfect backdrop to her story, as you become reluctant to leave both the Rivas and the Malibu coast behind.

Although the ending isn’t particularly shocking, I think that it fits with the tempo of the book flawlessly, forcefully striking and washing away the damage, just like the waves.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s gentle but powerful, and I can’t stop thinking about it.


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Release Date: 27th May 2021
Print Length: 365 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone

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